Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What is killing Christianity in America?

Matt Walsh, Maybe Christianity In America Is Dying Because It’s Boring Everyone To Death | is a young "blogger, writer, speaker, and professional truth sayer" (his own words).  He believes that the decline of the faith in America, especially among Millenials, is not due to the radical shape of this Christianity (at least on Sunday morning) but to its conventional appearance.  Christian worship for many denominational folks and for nearly all non-denominationals mirrors the music and culture all around them.  The message does not offend but neither does it inspire.  The preaching does not challenge but neither does it speak the Gospel faithfully.  It presents the person in the pew (pardon, theater seating) with a Christianity easily dismissed with a yawn.  Nothing new here. . . move along.  The radical shape of Christianity is the full truth of Scripture unapologetically proclaimed and worship rooted in the transcendent means of grace that deliver what they promise and do that of which they speak.  If you are a Lutheran who thinks our salvation rests in slavishly following the lead of the big box evangelicals and non-denominationals, read his words carefully.


I recently attended a service that might help solve the riddle of the fantastic decline of American Christianity. It was a different church from the one I normally go to.  Let me set the scene, perhaps it will sound familiar:
I walked in and immediately realized that I’d inadvertently stumbled upon a totally relaxed, convenient, comfortable brand of church. The first hint was the choir members dressed in shorts and flip flops. Sweet, bro. So chill.

There were a bunch of acoustic guitars and drums and tambourines and a keyboard. Before the service/concert began, some guy came out to rev up the crowd. Opening acts aren’t usually a part of the liturgical experience, but this is 2015 and we’re, like, so not into solemn silence and prayer anymore.
There must always be noise. Always noise. Sounds. Lights. Never silence, not even for a moment.
Finally, church started. The choir, or jam band for Jesus, or whatever it was, played a song that sounded like a cross between a 90′s Disney soundtrack and an easy listening favorite you might hear if you skimmed through your aunt’s second generation iPod. It wasn’t really contemporary, or good, or relevant, but at least it wasn’t traditional. Because YUCK! Tradition is old!

The singer was relatively talented, but he carried on like an American Idol contestant. I got the impression that he was fishing for applause, not worshiping the Lord of the Universe. His style and demeanor said “talent show” but the music said “wine and cheese festival” or maybe “my dentist’s waiting room.” It definitely didn’t say “truth,” or “heaven,” or “the Great King sitting upon his throne amidst throngs of mighty angels.”
The pastor began with another round of jokes. They weren’t very funny but they succeeded in being unserious, which I guess is close enough. The sermon was jam packed with youth slang and pop culture. He mentioned a couple of TV shows and Netflix. He made sports metaphors. He didn’t do anything with the references, he just hung them out there like we were supposed to be impressed that he knows about these things.

I think he even said something about Angry Birds. Dated, sure, but it did the job of letting us know that the guy speaking also used a smart phone at some point in the last five years. OMG! He totally gets us!
The word “Gospel” made maybe one appearance in his message. The words “truth,” “sacred,” “reverence,” “sin,” “hell,” “virtue,” “obedience,” and “duty” were conspicuously absent, just as they’re absent from most sermons delivered in most churches, everywhere in the country. Of course he did throw in a friendly helping of “friend” and “helping.” And “tolerance.” Obviously tolerance. It’s important to only preach the sort of principles we can practice from our couches, you know.

Also left out of his spiel: any semblance of an insight, a challenge, a truth, a call to action, or a point.
About halfway in, I turned around to get a look at my fellow congregants. Do you know what I witnessed? Hundreds of captivated churchgoers.

Just kidding.

Actually, a lot of empty seats. A disinterested yawn echoed through the hall. I could see the guy next to me fighting to keep his eyes open. I understood where he was coming from. Maybe this was the plan: stop people from leaving by putting them to sleep.

Effective, yes, but to what end?


John Joseph Flanagan said...

I experienced the same thing while visiting a non-denominational church for a Sunday worship in another community. It was pathetic to see a church turned into a theatrical stage, with contemporary Rock style music, flashing lights, entertainment. I would never return, not ever. This may be the trend in American Christianity, but we do not need to join in, but rather reject it soundly, There are faithful churches for us to attend. My home church is an LCMS, and it still remains traditional, but only a small touch of contemporary worship songs, pleasing in their message and lyrics, are done at the 11 AM service.

David Gray said...

I think it is sowing division in the church to have different services, with different content, for different factions of the church.

Kirk Skeptic said...

what you have is, in effect, 2 different congregations.